Return to Transcripts main page


Epstein Indictment Raises New Questions About Labor Secretary Alex Acosta; Judge Blocks Drug Prices in Ads; Elizabeth Warren Takes in $19.1M in 2nd Quarter; Trump Seizes on Leaks to Attack U.K.; Record Home Run Derby. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 9, 2019 - 04:30   ET



[04:32:36] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Can Alex Acosta hang on to his cabinet post? Fresh questions after a sex trafficking indictment against a financier Acosta gave a deal to a decade ago.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A blow to consumers. Drug prices will not be featured in TV ads. A new rule blocked by a federal judge.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: Welcome back from vacation, my friend.

ROMANS: Thank you.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs, 4:42 Eastern Time right here in New York City.

We start with this sex trafficking indictment of a politically connected multi-millionaire, raising new questions about Jeffrey Epstein's ties to a Trump cabinet official. The first of what could be many calls for Labor Secretary Alex Acosta to resign came overnight from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Quote, Secretary Acosta must step down as U.S. attorney. He engaged in an unconscionable agreement with Jeffrey Epstein kept secret from courageous young victims, preventing them from seeking justice.

ROMANS: As U.S. attorney in Florida in 2007, Acosta negotiated a plea deal that sentenced Epstein to 13 months in county jail and allowed him to work from his office six days a week, 12 hours a day. That was his jail sentence.

BRIGGS: Epstein had been facing life in prison. No comment from Republican Senator Ben Sasse on Acosta's future but he did say this about Epstein.


SEN. BEN SASSE (R-NE): This guy victimized dozens, probably scores of little girls and the sentence he got was pathetic, and every mom and dad in America, frankly, not just moms and dads but anybody with a heart should be heartbroken by what happened here to these girls.

Government ought to be doing more of this, going bastards like this guy. And it shouldn't -- this isn't a time for people to say, oh, he's a Republican or Democrat going to be implicated. Every American should stand on the side of those little girls.


ROMANS: The indictment against Epstein contains some troubling details.

More on that from CNN's Miguel Marquez.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, there are lurid sexual allegations again against multimillionaire and investment banker Jeffrey Epstein who's been charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy. But New York prosecutors, they are looking for more.

GEOFFREY BERMAN, NEW YORK PROSECUTOR: If you believe you are a victim of this man Jeffrey Epstein, we want to hear from you.

MARQUEZ: Prosecutors allege over four years, Epstein lured underage women, some as 14 years old to massage him and engage in sexual agents in his Palm Beach, Florida, and New York homes.

[04:35:08] Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In addition to finding hundreds, possibly thousands of photos of nude and partially nude young women and girls, some of them locked in a safe, investigators found compact disks with handwritten labels including the following, young name, plus name, miscellaneous nudes one and girls, girl pics nude.

Now, Epstein is already a registered sex offender after agreeing to a plea deal with the Florida prosecutors in 2008.

"The Miami herald" in an investigation helped prompt the new charges, found that Acosta signed off on a deal in 2008, essentially shutting down an FBI investigation giving immunity to any potential co- conspirators, allowing the multimillionaire to pay restitutions to his victims, registered as a sex offender and pled guilty to state charges. Epstein is also connected to the president. He was photographed with the president in 2007 and 2000 at the president's Mar-a-Lago estate, also in Palm Beach, Florida.

In 2002 "New York" magazine Epstein profile, Trump said of him: I've known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.

Just this past Sunday, the president was asked if he had any comment on Epstein or the case and he said I don't know about it -- Christine, Dave. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGGS: Miguel, thanks.

We should add an attorney for the Trump Organization said there was no relationship with Epstein.

Jeffrey Epstein also has connections to another president, Bill Clinton. Clinton spokesman said the information president took a total of four trips on Epstein's private jet in 2002 and 2003, including stops in connection with the work of the Clinton Foundation. The spokesman said Mr. Clinton has not spoken to Mr. Epstein in well over a decade. The spokesman statement adds that Clinton knows nothing about Epstein's terrible crimes.

ROMANS: A plan to let you see drug prices on TV ads, something pushed by the Trump administration nixed by a federal judge. It was to take effect today. But District Judge Amit Mehta of Washington, D.C. vacated the Health and Human Services measure, ruling the agency overstepped its responsibility. He said drug prices lies with Congress.

Putting prices in ads was a centerpiece to bring down drug prices. But experts say it could be misleading since most people with insurance pay far less.

BRIGGS: A big fundraising haul for one leading Democrat suggests progressives may be passed to a new hand this crowded 2020 field.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more from the trail in South Carolina.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So, Elizabeth Warren certainly answered one of the major questions facing her campaign, can she raise the money? She answered yes, $19.1 million over the last three months. That's something that certainly puts her in the top three candidates behind Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden and ahead of Bernie Sanders.

Her contribution is an average of $28, 80 percent of these contributors are new contributors. That means they can give again and again and again. So, she's certainly making good on her gamble to swear off high dollar fundraisers and do only small dollar contributions eating in to Bernie Sanders support.

As she is doing that, Eric Swalwell, the California member of Congress, he is saying farewell to the presidential campaign. He was not likely to make that debate stage the end of this month in Detroit. So, he's saying he'll be running for re-election for the House and not running for president. So, certainly, a fluid July for this big crowded 2020 procedural race -- Dave and Christine.


BRIGGS: OK. Jeff Zeleny, thanks. President Trump still considering an executive order to force a citizenship question on to the 2020 census. He's expected to take some kind of action this week even if he fails. The president believes the ongoing fight and appearance of not backing down will give him a boost amongst his conservative supporters.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi believes racism is motivating the president.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This is about keeping, you know, Make America -- his hat, make America white again.


BRIGGS: CNN has learned that Justice Department wants two new litigators from its office of immigration litigation to join the case. The DOJ official explains some current lawyers on the team cannot contradict themselves in front of the same judge in order to present new arguments. State plaintiffs are challenging the attempted attorney swap.

ROMANS: So important for this to be an accurate count of how many people are in America, how many people are in America. That's what the congressional mandate is for your school, for your roads, for how the trillions of dollars of federal spending is spent. The idea here is if you put a census question on there, there will be a population of people legal and otherwise who will be afraid to answer that, because they don't want to be isolated.

[04:40:08] And then those communities don't get the funding.

All right. Forty minutes past the hour.

Iran already speeding up uranium enrichment and the dangerous level could be approach quicker than expected. We've got a live report from Tehran, next.


BRIGGS: For more than a year, the gulf between Washington and Tehran over the Iran nuclear deal has been widening. European leaders caught in the middle trying to bridge the gap and preserve the increasingly shaky agreement. Now Europe suffers to hold it together seemed stretched to the very breaking point.

Senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen just back from Tehran.

Fred, good morning to you.

If they are trying to keep Europe on their side they seem to be pushing them further away by all their aggressive tactics. Good morning.

[04:45:02] FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they certainly are. Good morning, Dave.

The Iranians, of course, are saying, look, they're going to continue to take further steps in their uranium enrichment if Europeans don't fine some way to get around those American sanctions. One of the things that we've been learning is that they could reach that level a lot quicker than people had originally thought. The Iranians announced yesterday they are at 4.5 percent enrichment but they said next step they take could be going up 20 percent enrichment.

Of course, Dave, one of the things that we've also learned is that the steps going from zero to 20 percent enrichment is the hardest thing to do. Going from 20 to 80 percent or 90 percent that goes quicker. Of course, that 80 percent, 90 percent is what one needs to build an atomic bomb even though Iranians continue to say they don't want an atomic bomb.

But you're absolutely right. Europeans are scrambling to hold the deal together while not alienating the U.S. either. The French sending one of their top diplomats to Tehran to talk to the Iranians but the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, he talked to President Trump last night. According to the White House they talked about the necessity to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

So, certainly, the French trying to do their part. The Europeans trying to save this agreement. But the Iranians are continuing to say if they don't get some sort of sanctions relief, if Europeans don't find a way to get around sanctions, the Iranians are going to start taking those next steps and downsizing their commitments to the nuclear agreement including what we were just talking about that 20 percent enrichment which many experts say could be a dangerous next step, Dave.

BRIGGS: Difficult if not impossible need told thread for European leaders. Fred Pleitgen live for us this morning, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. A case for raising the federal minimum wage. The congressional budget office said raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would give 17 million a pay raise but 1.3 million would lose their jobs. Now wage growth remained at 3.1 percent for June.

Now, that's good news for workers but investors worry higher costs could eat into company's profits. While that 3.1 percent beats inflation, many think wages should be doing better actually this late in a business cycle as employers are working so hard to attract workers. It's been a real riddle here why wages haven't grown more.

In the absence of federal action, cities and states, even companies have been raising their minimum wages. At least 19 states upped the minimum wage. Many reached that $15 an hour.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, "Stranger Things" is breaking records. CNN Business has the details on how many tuned into the horror series, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [04:5R2:13] BRIGGS: An Arizona man charged with premeditated murder after police say he slit a teenager's throat because he felt threatened by the rap music the 17-year-old was listening to. Witnesses say 27-year-old Michael Paul Adam attacked Elijah Al-Amin at a convenient store. The teen was pronounced dead at the hospital a short time later. One of Al Amin's friends said they bonded over his passion for the very thing his alleged killer feared.


AREANA IVERY, ELIJAH AL-AMIN'S FRIEND: He talked about rap music all the time. He loved rap artists. He always said rap artists spoke to him. They just gave him a sense of purpose in a way like, that he went through a lot of things they went through.


BRIGGS: The Arizona Department of Corrections said Adams was released three days before the killing. His former attorney says he has a history of mental illness. Adams is being held on $1 million bond.

ROMANS: A 70-year-old physician has died by suicide after being accused of cheating at this year's Los Angeles marathon. The body of the Dr. Frank Meza was found in the Los Angeles River last week in June. He clocked an extraordinary time of two hours, 53 minutes and 10 seconds of the race, a record for his age group.

But the record was tossed out after marathon officials reviewed security footage and saw Meza leaving and re-entering the course at different places.

Dr. Meza's daughter tells CNN he was targeted and bullied online and was devastated that people believed he cheated.

BRIGGS: A Florida high school principal couldn't say the Holocaust was a factual historic event. Now he's been reassign. A parent reached out to William Latson last year with a question about how the Boca Raton High School handles the Holocaust in its curriculum.

Latson responded by writing, quote: I can't say the Holocaust is a factual historical event because I'm not in a position to do so as a school district employee.

School district called Latson's email not just offensive but completely out of step with its education efforts. In a statement, Latson says he regrets that the words he used didn't reflect his commitment to educating students about the atrocities of the Holocaust.

ROMANS: A 1-year-old daughter of Indiana police officer died Sunday when she slipped out of her grandfather's hands and fell from the 11- story of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. The man told police he was holding his daughter while the ship was docked in Puerto Rico. They were traveling with two siblings and two sets of grandparents aboard the Freedom of the Seas which had not yet departed San Juan for its stop in St. Martin. BRIGGS: Strong TV ratings for the U.S. women's national soccer team

world victory Sunday despite the midday time slot about 14 million people watched on TV in the U.S.

[04:55:03] That beats last year's men's World Cup final between France and Croatia which averaged 11.4 million.

Team USA arrived back home last night and spoke about the equal pay issue. For the past three years, the women's team has made more revenue than the men despite being paid less. That said, the men's World Cup last year made $6 billion in revenue while women's tournament is expected to generate $130 million.

You can find Alex Morgan and Meghan Rapinoe.


ALEX MORGAN, WOMEN'S WORLD CUP CHAMPION: We need to use our voice for what we believe in and for the opinions that we have.

MEGAN RAPINOE, WOMEN'S WORLD CUP CHAMPION: We understand what kind of stage we're on. We're very aware of the tension we have. We knew this would be a huge summer for us in many different ways. This is just the first step in a very big summer.


BRIGGS: And there you can find Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe on the new "Sports Illustrated" cover, complete with Rapinone's signature post. She will speak with Anderson Cooper tonight and CNN will bring full coverage of the team's victory parade in New York City through the Canyon of Heroes tomorrow morning.

ROMANS: That will be fun to watch.

All right. Let's get a check on CNN Business this Tuesday morning. First, a look at markets around the world this morning. You got European markets opening lower here and a mixed performance basically in Asia.

On Wall Street, futures down just a little bit this morning. The Dow closed lower amid worries whether the Fed will really aggressively cut rates. Looking at that strong jobs report. Why would Fed be cutting interest rates 50 basis points if you got 225,000 people into the labor market and 225,000 new jobs?

The Dow closed 116 points lower. S&P 500 and Nasdaq finished down. Market has been expecting an interest rate cut from the Federal Reserve. That strong jobs report indicates Wall Street might have gotten ahead of itself. The Fed is due to decide on rates at the end of this month.

Another bank will stop lending to immigrant detention centers. SunTrust is ending its business relationships with owners of detention centers on the border between U.S. and Mexico. Public concern about the nation's border policies is growing here. Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, they have all cut ties with the detention centers because of reports of poor treatment of immigrants.

There is a new Netflix four day streaming champion.

So creepy, I don't actually watch the show, but even just the clips creep me out. "Stranger Things 3" has been watched by 40.7 million households since its Fourth of July launch. When season two debuted just two years ago, Nielsen said the first episode averaged 15.8 million viewers.

Netflix said 18.2 million accounts have already binged the entire season.

BRIGGS: In five days.

ROMANS: Productivity.

BRIGGS: That's impressive.

ROMANS: Holiday weekend.

BRIGGS: Yes, holiday weekend.

All right. Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day. For our U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now.


BRIGGS: Can Alex Acosta hang on to his cabinet post? Fresh questions after a sex trafficking incident indictment against a financier Acosta gave a deal a decade ago.

ROMANS: A blow to consumers. Drug prices will not be featured in TV ads. A new White House rule blocked by a federal judge.

BRIGGS: The president using unflattering leaks from the U.K. ambassador to attack the British government just weeks after he was given a royal welcome.

ROMANS: And a record at the home run derby. Can Vlad Guerrera hold on in the final?

Good morning and welcome, everyone, to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. All star game tonight in Cleveland.

Great to have you back from vacation.

ROMANS: Thanks. Nice to be back.

BRIGGS: Tuesday, July 9th, 900th day of the Trump presidency. It is 5:00 a.m. here in the East, just about it anyway.

We start with the new sex trafficking indictment of politically connected multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, raising new questions about a Trump cabinet official, the first of what could be many calls for Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to resign came overnight from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Quote; Secretary Acosta must step down. As U.S. attorney, he engaged in an unconscionable agreement with Jeffrey Epstein kept secret from courageous young victims preventing them from seeking justice.

BRIGGS: As U.S. attorney in Florida in 2007, Acosta negotiated a plea deal that sentenced Epstein to 13 months in county jail, and allowed him to work from his office six days a week for 12 hours a day. Epstein had been facing life in prison. That was the deal he got. No comment from Republican Senator Ben Sasse on Acosta's future, the labor secretary. But he did have this to say about Epstein.